This is the story of the Thanksgiving turkeys that got away.

This is the story of the Thanksgiving turkeys that got away.

At least for this year.

If Rennie Graves has anything to do with it, though, the turkeys that strut, bounce, gobble and hop throughout her 125-acre farm will grace dinner tables next year — or at least their offspring, which will hatch in late spring and be ready by next Thanksgiving.

This year wasn’t the banner year for turkeys — not for Graves and her business partners anyhow. With economic hardships spread throughout the nation and the trickle down effect that had on Graves’s modest farm operation, Graves sold about 75 turkeys this season. Typically she sells about 100.

“With the fuel prices for the tractors, the feed, it was tough this year,” the 63-year-old owner of Troque Farms near Buckner said earlier this week. She was taking some time off between customers as they pulled up her driveway off Oakland School Road and picked up their orders.

It’s never been easy, Graves will tell you when talking about her farm, which she started with her late husband in 1995. After he died in 2004, Graves made the decision to continue on, operating it with her brother and sister.

“It’s not just something to do,” she said. “You have to want to do something like this. Farming has to be in your blood.”

Graves appears comfortable on her property. She darts back and forth between buildings, checking livestock, serving customers at what can only be described as a rustic open market setting – freezers lined up outside an old building a step or two away from her residence, each one filled to capacity with beef, chicken, pork, veal, cuts of animals that were born, raised and fed on the property before being sent to the processing house in Clinton (though Graves processes her chickens on site).

There are fresh eggs and dairy products, too. Other items like organic nuts are available as well.

“We have something for most tastes,” she said.

But Troque Farms is not an organic farm. To be able to label her farm as such, Graves would have to apply for that status through the United States Department of Agriculture. It would be time consuming and cost her significant money.

Don’t hold your breath.

“Why should I do that?” Graves said. “Everything here is natural. Calling it an organic farm just means you’re natural, that you don’t use the pesticides and the hormones. I’m that without the government having to interfere.”

Natural farming, as Graves prefers and must call it, gives her a decent living and gives locals the opportunity to buy locally-grown food without the chemicals and hormones and pesticides that lace and fill food in the major stores. While some of her products are a bit more expensive than what you’d find in a HyVee or Price Chopper, people are willing to make the sacrifice.

“The quality is much, much better,” Graves said. “I think anyone who buys products like this will tell you that. And it’s healthier. I have people tell me that their children’s allergies disappear after they begin eating a diet of naturally grown food.”

Eating naturally grown food (or organic) is big business in the United States. Retail sales last year for organic dairy products, for instance, grew about 20 percent, which is about the annual growth rate, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Daniel Bohler, a Lone Jack resident, pulled up into the driveway and got his turkey, an order he placed a few months back. Graves said those who want a turkey for Thanksgiving must place an order with her by late August or the first of September.

“This is a wonderful business,” Bohler said. “We’ve been coming here for a number of years now.”

Bohler is one of about 75 people who ordered turkeys this year from Graves. While the price is steep (ranging from $60-70), most agree it’s worth it. The meat is darker, richer. Allowed to roam a property and eat  a mixture of grasses and grains, all the while able to move and exercise, a free range turkey is a much more healthy bird than its commercially grown and raised birds.

“Once you get a taste, I’ve found that people are willing to pay a little more for quality,” she said.

Graves said she would like to build on her business. She’d like to go into vegetable production next year, utilizing a green house that would have to be refurbished. But one step at a time.

“When you farm, you’re never caught up,” she said. Then later: “I could retire, go to Hawaii and sit in the sun, but I love doing this.”

For more information about the farm, contact Rennie Graves or Frank Kuhnert at 816-650-9307 or 816-215-9925. The farm is located at 31710 East Oakland School Road south of Buckner.